10 April 2020

Iraq

Iraqi protesters torch Iranian consulate in Najaf

KONFRONTASI-Anti-government protesters stormed and set the Iranian consulate ablaze in the southern city of Najaf on Wednesday as turmoil in Iraq continues to escalate.

It was the strongest expression yet of the anti-Iranian sentiment by Iraqi demonstrators, who have taken to the streets for weeks in the capital Baghdad and Shia-Muslim-majority south - and have been shot in their hundreds by Iraqi security forces.

Staff at the Iranian consulate evacuated safely before the attack in the holy city.

Iraq Parliament to convene amid UN mediation efforts over crisis

KONFRONTASI-The president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region has headed to Baghdad for discussions with top officials, just hours before Parliament was due to convene to discuss demands after weeks of anti-establishment protests.

After meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Nechirvan Barzani was expected to hold talks with President Barham Salih and Speaker Mohammed Halbussi, who will chair the special legislative session on Wednesday afternoon.

Iraq's elite rallies around Iran-backed plan to hang on to power

KONFRONTASI-Iraq’s ruling parties appear to have rallied behind a strategy, blessed by Iran, to try to survive a mass anti-government uprising by containing protests on the streets of Baghdad while offering a package of political reforms and elections next year.

But the proposed solution involves keeping in power a ruling elite that Iran has cultivated for years - unlikely to placate protesters who have been demanding the entire caste of politicians be swept aside.

Iraqi security forces break up protests in Battle of the Bridges

KONFRONTASI-Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live rounds into the air to disperse protesters in central Baghdad on Wednesday as the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations in decades spread out across the capital.

Reuters correspondents said the shootings took place on or near three of Baghdad’s main bridges - Ahrar, Shuhada, and Bab al-Muatham - which have become focal points of the protests.

There appeared to be no deaths. At least 27 people sustained tear gas-related injuries, medical and security sources said.

Protesters had blocked the Shuhada Bridge over the River Tigris since Tuesday afternoon as part of efforts to bring the country to a standstill, with thousands joining anti-government demonstrations in the capital and southern provinces.

They had tried to take Ahrar Bridge on Monday when security forces opened fire, killing at least five.

“More youth started gathering so they kept firing tear gas and live bullets. Maybe four were injured. We didn’t do anything but they came and arrested everyone. The youth are peaceful from the start of the sit-in,” Qusay Mahdi, a protester on Shuhada Bridge, said on Wednesday.

Security forces were also arresting protesters en masse. A Reuters correspondent saw police pull over a tuk-tuk in the vicinity of one of the bridges and beat the driver before arresting him.

Clashes over two other bridges near the central Tahrir Square where thousands had been gathering for weeks had been taking place regularly, bringing the total of blocked bridges to five.

More than 260 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a political class they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests. In the 24 hours to late Tuesday, security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters.

Four more people died on Wednesday from injuries sustained at earlier protests over the past week, medical sources said.

Iraqis have been congregating in Tahrir Square for weeks, demanding an overhaul of the political system in the biggest wave of mass protests since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Thousands have also been gathering in the impoverished southern Shi’ite heartland.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Since defeating Islamic State in 2017, Iraq has enjoyed two years of comparative stability. But despite its oil wealth, many people live in poverty with limited access to clean water, electricity, healthcare or education.

The root cause of grievances is the sectarian power-sharing system of governance introduced in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Many see political elites as subservient to one or another of Baghdad’s main allies, the United States and Iran, who use Iraq as a proxy in a struggle for regional influence.

Protesters are now escalating their tactics, saying civil disobedience is their only recourse and calling for strikes as the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, in office for a year, has found no response to the protests.

Protesters on Wednesday blocked the entrance to the Nassiriya oil refinery, security and oil sources said. They stopped tankers that transport fuel to gas stations from entering the refinery, causing fuel shortages.

Security forces forcibly dispersed a sit-in there overnight in oil-producing Basra but no deaths were reported, security sources said. Protesters had camped out in front the provincial government building.

Thousands have been blocking all roads leading to Iraq’s main Gulf port Umm Qasr, near Basra.

Operations at the port, which receives most of Iraq’s imports of grain, vegetable oils and sugar, have been at a complete standstill for a week.

Several killed in Iraq as anti-government protests continue

KONFRONTASI-At least six protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces in Iraq, officials said, pushing the overall death toll in this month's anti-government protests to more than 190.

Thousands took part in nationwide protests on Saturday, and security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators who tried to reach Baghdad's Green Zone, home to government offices and embassies.

Three protesters were killed when they were struck by tear gas canisters in Baghdad, security and medical officials said.

Islamic State claims responsibility for Iraq bus bombing that killed 12

KONFRONTASI- Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for a bus bombing that killed 12 people near the Iraqi city of Kerbala, the Amaq news agency reported on Saturday.

Iraqi security services said on Friday that 12 people were killed and several others wounded when a bus bombing occurred near the holy city south of Baghdad.

Two police spokesmen in the area said an explosive device planted on the bus detonated at a northern entrance to the city, setting fire to the vehicle.[mr/reuters]

Dozens dead as ferry sinks in Tigris River near Iraq's Mosul

KONFRONTASI-Dozens of people have died after a ferry carrying families celebrating the Nowruz holiday capsized in Tigris river near the Iraqi city of Mosul, according to officials.

Husam Khalil, the head of Mosul's Civil Defence Authority, said, according to news agencies, that at least 45 people were killed in Thursday's accident.

"We have pulled out 45 bodies and the number could rise," Khalil said. He added that most of the casualties were women and children who could not swim.

Daesh militants kill over dozen civilians, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters in Iraq

KONFRONTASI -  Remnants of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group have shot and killed more than a dozen civilians and pro-government fighters in two separate attacks amid ongoing counter-terrorism operations to purge the extremists from all parts of the war-battered Arab country.

Captain Habib al-Shamri said Daesh terrorists set up a fake security checkpoint on a main road near al-Azim district in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, and stopped a number of civilian vehicles.

Iraqi forces comb over 170 villages for Daesh terrorists

KONFRONTASI-Iraqi forces have successfully combed some 175 villages located in the desert regions between the Anbar and Nineveh provinces on the lookout for lingering Daesh terrorists.

“Army, Federal Police and al-Hashd al-Shaabi, backed by military jets, concluded the first part of the second phase of the operations,” said the country’s War Media cell on Sunday.

It added that the focus of the combing operations was on the villages and regions between south of Hatra and north of Rawah.

Islamic State guerrilla attacks point to its future strategy

KONRONTASI-Syrian and Iraqi forces closing in on the last scraps of Islamic State's caliphate straddling the remote border area between the two countries have already witnessed the jihadists' likely response.

While their comrades mounted last stands in their Syrian capital of Raqqa and the city of Hawija in Iraq, IS militants seized the Syrian town of al-Qaryatayn and launched its biggest attack for months in Ramadi late last month. That is the kind of guerrilla insurgency both countries foresee IS turning to.

"It is expected that after the Daesh terrorist organisation's capacity to fight in the field is finished, its remnants will resort to this type of (guerrilla) operation. But for a certain period of time, not forever," said a Syrian military source, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The continued ability for IS to mount attacks in areas where it was thought to have been eliminated will hinder efforts to stabilise regions when the fighting wanes.

In Iraq, where Islamic State originated, it has a proven record of falling back upon local networks from which it can rise anew when conditions allow. So far, it has not shown it has the same capacity in Syria, and it might find doing so more challenging there than in Iraq.

The sectarian divisions on which it thrives are less pronounced in Syria, and it faces competition there for jihadist loyalty from other powerful militant groups.

"Daesh is in essence an Iraqi organisation, it will survive to some extent in Iraq. Syrian members will dissolve in other Syrian Salafi jihadist groups," said Hisham Hashami, an adviser on Islamic State to the Iraqi government.

But in both countries it has shown it can exploit holes left by overstretched enemies to carry out spectacular attacks - the one in Syria's al-Qaryatayn most clearly - that spread panic and tie down opposing forces.

It has also proved able to carry out bombings and assassinations in areas controlled by the Iraqi and Syrian governments, U.S.-backed Kurdish militias and rival jihadist rebel groups, signalling an ability to survive underground.

A jihadist from a Syrian rebel faction opposed to Islamic State said the group had won enough support among young men to give it a latent capacity to revive.

"I believe that it is possible, given that its ideology has spread widely among the youths, that something new will emerge," the jihadist said, pointing to the highly effective propaganda machine deployed by Islamic State over the last three years.

 

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